Update on Reference Services During COVID-19 Times

This week, Archival Associate Weston Marshall is providing us reflections on handling reference requests for the past few months from home, as well as an update on operations as our Texas Tech campus shifts to Phase III services.


My job as an archival associate for the SWC Reference Department revolves around patron interaction. I am used to visiting with researchers, discovering their interests, evaluating their needs, and providing the necessary materials. With social distancing continuing to be a priority, the way that I help patrons with their research needs has drastically changed. Thankfully, the digital age has allowed us to continue communications and retain a bit of normalcy in our daily operations. I continue to receive reference requests on a regular basis and learn a little about what people are currently researching. Some interesting trends have emerged as people are remaining safely indoors.

Generally, I believe people have utilized this time of self-isolation to reflect on the parts of life that matter most. The majority of pending requests have to do with topics involving communities and family. While we are not able to fulfill every request at this time, our reference staff is committed to helping find as many available resources as possible. Whether patrons are interested in community events or family history, the SWC has some wonderful online resources at https://swco-ir.tdl.org/.

The website can be browsed by collection or resource type. These categories are listed on the homepage and include topics such as maps, newspapers, oral history transcripts, photographs, etc.

For more specific topic results, patrons can utilize the search feature on the right-hand side of the DSpace homepage. Results can then be filtered as indicated by the below visual. Use the dropdown menu on the left to specify collection or material type. The filters located to the right allow users to narrow search results by topic and date.


Our digital collection is a fantastic way for patrons to interact with archival material on their own. Not all of the SWC’s materials are available in digital form, but our reference staff is happy to help with inquiries. For assistance, please contact the SWC Reference Department at (806) 742-9070 or via email.


Our building may remain closed, but many of our resources are still accessible online!


I would also like to provide you with an update to the Southwest Collection’s COVID-19 operations. This week, the university has entered Phase III of operations and some of our employees will begin returning to work. A limited number of faculty and staff will follow a modified work schedule.

We want to let researchers know what we are currently able to do this month and what requests we are still unable to fulfill during Phase III.

Please note that our Reading Room will remain closed to researchers at this time. However, some of our reference staff (myself included) will return to the building for a few days a week where we will be able to access our holdings and answer some researcher questions. If you contacted us between March and May, please be patient. We will be working through requests in the order in which they were received. Any new requests will go to the end of the queue.

In Phase III, duplications will not be mailed out. We cannot process duplication payments at this time as some of our archival staff remains at home. For example, oral histories for family members require an audiovisual staff member to burn audio discs. Please be assured that our reference staff will pull your materials and get them ready. We hope to fulfill your request when we enter Phase II. More information on that will be forthecoming.

If you are a donor, our registrar will be on limited duty to begin catching up on deeds of gift and other paperwork.

Our employees remain available as they continue to work from home and can answer questions to the best of their abilities remotely. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time in our organization’s history.